Lola’s Ramblings: What makes for a 5 star book and my recent lack of them

Posted May 19, 2016 by Lola in Lola's Ramblings / 24 Comments


Lola’s Ramblings is a feature on my blog Lola’s Reviews where I ramble on about a book related or a non-book related topic. These are discussion type of posts where I talk about a topic and readers can weigh in on the topic in the comments. Usually these posts are everything that doesn’t fall under any standard header, like tours, cover reveals, memes, challenges, recaps or reviews. Lola’s Ramblings posts are discussions of a certain topic and my point of view on them. The banner for this feature is designed by Michelle from Limabean Designs.

Today I wanted to tackle something more current. Normally I talk about generic topics I think about, but now I want to talk about the books I read this year and my recent lack of 5 star reads, which I wanted to tie in with the question of what makes for a 5 star book.

What makes for a 5 star book?

I set very high standards for 5 star reads. A 5 star book has to be somehow outstanding and better than most of the books I read. If I really enjoy a book it will get a 4 star rating, only the book I really love get a 5 star rating. I think for me a 5 star read has to be addictive and memorable. When I have trouble putting a book down and keep thinking I’ll read one more chapter and then another one, I usually know I have a really good book. I am very disciplined and usually when it’s time to put down my book I put down my book, so when a book is so good I read longer than planned I know it’s a good one.

A 5 star book is usually a book that does well on all the points I mention in my reviews: story, characters, romance and world building/ setting. So a 5 star book also needs to have a good story that I enjoy reading, has characters that I like, a romance I enjoy and feel and the world building or setting has to be so good I can imagine being there. Even better if the book isn’t only good at those aspect, but excels on some of them. If I really enjoy a book at one of those points it already has a higher chance to become a 5 star rating, but it has to do good or at least reasonable on most points to get a 5 star rating.

Then again I also feel that 5 star book doesn’t have to be perfect. With perfect in this case I mean perfect for me, I mean a book where you have no complains or things you liked slightly less. Most of my 5 star books are books where I still mention one or two small things I liked less and that’s okay. As I said I am very picky so even with my 5 star reads I can usually find some tiny things I liked less or thought could’ve been done better, but fewer than in other books. Whether a book gets a 5 star rating is usually more of a feeling than exact science, it just feels like a really good book and I feel it deserves that 5 star rating. If I doubt I usually give the book a 4 star. Luckily I have a lot of 4 star books in general, but only a few 5 stars.

My recent lack of 5 star reads

Normally I read about 10-15 5 star books each year, which I know because I usually do a wrap up post at the end of the year where I list all my 5 star reads of this year. I can usually expect about one 5 star read each month and recently I was pondering the books I read this year and was thinking of how many good ones I read, but I also realized I had only one 5 star read so far. Only one 5 star book in 4 months. That’s way less than normal. For those wondering the book in questions which got a 5 star rating from me this year is City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong.

I don’t really think it’s reason for concern, but it does surprise me as in the past few years my amount of 5 star books has been very consistent. So I was wondering why I only read one 5 star book this year, have I gotten more critically? That’s possible. I am always very picky with my 5 star reads, so maybe I have gotten even more picky. Have I read less good books in general? I don’t think it’s the last one as I can remember reading a lot of good books this year, just not 5 star good. I also know that I’ve only had two DNF’s and one 2 star book this year, so I also had very little books I didn’t enjoy and that amount usually was higher in previous years. So it seems I am reading less really good books, but also less really bad books.

I also feel like I am giving out more 3 stars and generally my 3 stars have gotten more positive, so it seems like I give out more 3 stars and overall enjoy my 3 star reads more then I used to. So I feel like maybe this is a general change in how I rate books maybe? Or maybe it’s just a coincidence and I am reading too much into it, but I still found it curious how my ratings pattern has changed this year. And I kinda miss that feeling of books that really impress me and that I love so much I have trouble writing my reviews and where I want the whole world to convince to read this book. I plan on re-reading a 5 star read from the previous years soon and see how that goes. And hey maybe the best books are still to come. Have you ever noticed such a change in reading pattern and where would you attribute it to?

When do you give a book a 5 star rating? How many 5 star books do you read in a year? How many 5 star reads have you read this year so far?


24 responses to “Lola’s Ramblings: What makes for a 5 star book and my recent lack of them

  1. This is perfect timing because I literally just posted a 5 star book review a few hours ago lol. And I RARELY give out the full 5 stars. Last year I gave three out of the hundred something books I read. This year I’ve given two so far out of sixty something.

    All my ratings are based on feelings, so it’s also definitely a feeling thing for me rather than a science. But for me to give 5 stars, the book basically has to be perfect. But as you said, also perfect *for me*. A lot of times, I’ll read a book that has nothing actually wrong with it, but it just doesn’t have enough emotion for me, and those books usually get 4 stars. So lots of emotion is usually required for 5 stars. And developed characters. Also, the book usually needs to have beautiful writing. Like, it’s not a strict requirement, it’s just, that almost always seems to be what pushes a book over the edge for me.

    Ok, this is gonna sound weird, haha, but the main way I know a book deserves 5 stars is that I’ll literally be freaking out while I’m reading it. Like, I’ll keep stopping every so often just to have a momentary “%#@&*! THIS IS SO AMAZING” moment. It’s like the amazingness cannot be contained in my head and I just have to let some out before going back to reading lol. And if a book makes me do that, I might be able to overlook some imperfections.

    As for your lack of 5 stars, I think it could be any of those things. Could just be coincidence. But since you rate based on feeling, it’s entirely possible you’ve changed your rating scale. I feel like mine is changing all the time lol, but I don’t even know. I would say it’s most likely the books though because I think you’d know if a book deserved 5 stars. Like you said, you’d have trouble writing the review because you’d want the whole world to know about it. You’ll find some 5 stars soon I’m sure 🙂
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Book Review: Withered + Sere (Immemorial Year Book 1) by TJ KluneMy Profile

    • I don’t do half stars, but normally I have like 10 in the 120 or so books that’s a 5 star or about one every month. And this year I only gave one book a 5 star. I saw your 5 star review yesterday and I know how rarely you give them out. That does always make me extra curious to what books do get a 5 star rating.

      Writing style can really matter to me too. If I like an author their writing style the chances are so much higher I will really enjoy their book. My ratings are based on feelings too, although there’s usually also some sort of reasoning behind it. I recently gave a book 4 stars and even though I still had some issues with it, it just felt like a 4 star. Like the level of enjoyment when I read the book was still high enough for a 4 star even with the issues I had. It’s always hard to explain ratings because of that, it’s so much based on feelings.

      For me a 5 star book is usually an specific feeling where I just say to myself one more chapter and then one more and if nothing stops me I could keep reading, although I usually stop myself eventually it’s really hard to tear me out of the book.

      I really hope I find a 5 star again soon. I kinda miss that feeling of a really good read. I think my ratings scale has slightly shifted this year I give out more 3 stars and they are more positive, but also less 5 stars. I plan on re-reading a book I gave 5 stars once, maybe that helps me at least give that feeling of reading a very good book. And yes I believe that too that when I find a 5 star I know it. And they always are the most difficult reviews to write 😉

  2. I struggle with giving a book a 5 star rating. I don’t think I’ve had any this year. I’ve had a few 4.5 ratings where the book was brilliant but lacking something. I often give books 3.5 ratings. I’ve also been struggling with the DNF’s, I don’t know if I’m getting tired of seeing the same old thing in romances, but I’ve been having a lot more DNF’s when it comes to romance books.
    Angela @Simply Angela recently posted…Audiobook Review: Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman Narrated by Amanda RonconiMy Profile

    • I don’t give half ratings, but I am almost tempted too, but then all my previous books wouldn’t match my new system. I only had 2 DNF’s this year, which isn’t too bad and both of those were books I wasn’t 100% about, but wanted to try them. Turned out my initial reaction was right.
      Sometimes a genre switch can help when you’re getting tired of seeing the same topes over and over again. I love romances, but I don’t read too many in a row, as then the tropes suddenly can feel too obvious.

  3. I have noticed the same thing for myself. I used to give 5 stars willy nilly and then I realized I wasn’t being fair to the truly good books that earned that rating. After that, I put standards to how I was going to personally rate books. One of my biggest pet peeves is poor grammar and editing. I am starting a new rating system that separates the content from the editing and taking the average for the overall. I wish I was that person that can glance over errors as if they aren’t the, but what can I say? I’m a grammar Nazi. I will say that I try to reach out to the author before rating on errors.

    • I always was pretty picky with my 5 star books, one every 10-15 books or one 5 star book a month usually was my standard. And now it just seemed to have gotten worse.

      Poor grammar and editing is one of those things I don’t mind as I usually read right over any mistakes as I am pretty bad at grammar and spelling myself. I do think it’s fair you reach out to the author first before rating on errors. And when reading an arc of a book I usually expect a few mistakes that will be removed before the final version (not that I spot them though, lol).

  4. I usually only read books that I think I will like. I read a lot of books from authors that I’ve read before and liked or series that I really like. I’ll read a few new authors if the book sounds really good and I do a few reviews for another blog when she finds books in series that I want to read. So because I pretty much only read books that I think I’m gonna like or from authors that I already like, most of the books are 4 or 5 stars for me. I don’t read as much as I used to and I’m pretty picky these days about the books I do read.
    Mary Kirkland recently posted…Product Review: UberChef® Potato Ricer Set with 3 Ricing Discs (Fine, Medium, Coarse)My Profile

    • Reading books by authors you already know is usually a good way to know you’ll enjoy them. I also try a lot of new to me authors, but even most of them I usually am pretty good at gauging whether I like them. It just seems I have had few very really good books lately.

  5. I do a tally at the end of the year, too, and I’m always quite pleased to see that I have tend to have under five 1-star reads, and only a few more 2-star reads; when I feel like I’ve had a really difficult year of reading, it’s so nice to see that those books I really disliked are only in the small numbers. My three-star reads can be a big mix, though, and I think it really depends on the book itself and how I actually *think* of it, whether that’s a positive or negative rating for me. Quite a lot of the manga I read get three-stars, I’ve noticed, and I know I still really enjoyed them- but compared to the other volumes, the ones that get lower ratings just weren’t *as good*, even if they were still really enjoyable. On the other hand, a lot of novels I give three-stars to have more issues and there were fewer elements that I enjoyed. Clearly I don’t understand my method for rating AT ALL *laughs* Aah well.

    I actually use a 7-point rating system on my blog and that works so well for me, since I never felt very satisfied or happy with the five star system. It’s never really worked for me, although I’m okay with using it for goodreads.

    It’s so interesting that you’ve noticed you’re having less 5-star reads, though. I wonder why that is. I think, as the years have passed, I’ve actually had more and more 5-star reads, and I think that’s because I’m more understanding of what I like and I’m a lot more careful with the books I decide to read, so there’s less chance it’ll be a failure for me, although at the same time- like you say about yourself- I think I am a lot harsher with giving things that top rating. If I went back and reread a couple of my old 5-star reads, I’d probably think they could go down to 4.

    I hope you have a really brilliant read soon, though, Lola! xx
    Romi recently posted…Six favourites for six years.My Profile

    • I agree it can bring things in perspective when you look back at the end of the year. I don’t give 1 stars, so for me books I didn’t enjoy are the DNF’s and 2 stars. And same goes for me a 3 star can be a bit of a negative rating sometimes, especially when it’s a book in a series I really enjoyed. But it can also be a good rating and lately I’ve felt that in general my 3 star reviews have become more positive.

      What you have with manga’s I have with cozy mysteries, I really enjoy the genre, but also give quite some 3 star ratings. And yeah rating methods can be so confusing sometimes, I don’t understand my own method completely either.

      I like the idea of a 7 point system. A agree that a 5 star system not always works as well, which is why I always say my review says more than my rating.

      I do feel that as the years have passed I know better which books I enjoy and which not. I have a good amount of 3 and 4 star reads this year, but just less 5 stars. less books that really are amazing. So I feel like I better know what I enjoy and have less books I don’t enjoy, but less books that really get the 5 star rating either.
      Lola recently posted…Review: Saven Denial by Siobhan DavisMy Profile

  6. Hmmm, this is a very interesting post. I know I’ve earned some 5-stars from you in the past, and I’ve noticed that this year, your interest in genres has changed somewhat too. So maybe now that you’re reading a larger variety of books, the ratings have changed too? I don’t rate books anymore, but if I *were* to rate books, I’m not sure I’ve read many 5-star books in the past few years. I really love many books, but 5-stars is hard to come by.
    S. J. Pajonas recently posted…Sunday Update – May 22, 2016My Profile

    • Quite some of your books have received 5 star ratings, I know I have found a really good author when that happens ;). Strangely enough I read a lot of cozies lately and while I really enjoy the genre I haven’t had a 5 star cozy yet. I do feel my rating system has changed a bit this year, but I still hope I run into a 5 star read soon. My current plan is to re-read Face Time and then that way at least I will read a 5 star book even if it isn’t a new one.
      And that’s a good way to put it, there are a lot of books I really enjoy, but very few I really love as much as to give them a 5 star.

  7. Haha, well, I don’t exactly hand a five-star rating out like candy, but I do give them out generously. The thing is that if you went through my Amazon or GoodReads reviews there are so many more five stars than you would find if you went by my ratings for the blog. I tend to round up when I don’t have the option of the half-star like I do on the blog. Four and a halfs are the ratings for the ‘not quites’.
    I’m not sure what causes all the five stars. It used to be because I pretty much read authors and types of books that were guaranteed to be a match with my tastes, but then I started getting brave and picked up lots of new to me authors, genre blends, and other new elements which may or may not worked for me.
    I do know that a five star has to have left a pretty deep impression on me even if it wasn’t perfect technically.
    I have gradually been giving out less five stars the longer I review and have settled into what mechanical points and what ‘mood’ points I’m willing to give when I close the back page on a book. This year has seen more DNFs, two-stars, and three-stars than I’ve ever given before.
    Sophia Rose recently posted…The Girl From Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux #ReviewMy Profile

    • I am wondering if I would give half stars how many I would give that 4.5 stars. I have been considering adding half stars, but that would be weird for the books I already rated, so I am not sure. I have a read a lot of good 4 stars this year and also some on the higher end of that scale, but they also definitely wouldn’t get a 5 star.

      Maybe the reason I have so few 5 stars is because I try new authors so often? But then I also found a lot of good ones, just not 5 star good I guess.

      I think you sum it up pretty well, for me 5 stars have to leave a pretty deep impression and somehow hook me into the book and story, but they don’t have to perfect.

      I have felt like on the one hand my reviewing style has changed in that I’ve gotten less rash in my reviews, when I re-read some fo my old 3 star reviews I am surprised at how negative they sound compared to my current 3 star reviews. It seems I give out more 3 stars now, but they are more positive. And less 5 stars in general.
      Lola recently posted…Review: Saven Denial by Siobhan DavisMy Profile

  8. I don’t do stars or ratings on my blog but on Goodreads I find it interesting to look and see which books I’ve given 5 stars too. Not very many, but then my GR shelves aren’t that full compared to some people. But basically I give 5 stars to favorite books, for want of a better description. If I love the book all around it gets five. But it’s so subjective… even three and four stars I find myself changing my mind. I might really like a three star but for some reason it just doesn’t get four… not sure why! lol

    It’s funny I’m actually reading City of the Lost right now! Hopefully I’ll give it 5 stars too… 🙂
    Greg recently posted…Sunday Post #143My Profile

    • I hope you’ll enjoy City of the Lost as much as I did! Looking forward to hear what you think of it.

      Rating systems are kinda hard to explain. Sometimes a book just doesn’t feel like a 4 star or 5 star even while you can’t explain it. It’s very subjective indeed.
      Lola recently posted…Sunday Post #179My Profile

  9. I give 1,4 and 5 stars easily, but for some reason, more rarely give 2 and 3. Just like you, I tend to rate by gut feeling: a book can have some issues, but if the overall satisfaction I get is high, I’ll rate it 5. 1 star will always mean DNF for me, because I will never waste my time finishing a book I still don’t enjoy after 20%.
    I also keep in mind that I can’t compare some books: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo for example is a 5 stars to me, but if I based my entire rating scale on it, I would never dish out 5 stars, so I tend to compare similar to similar, if you know what I mean 🙂

    • I don’t think I have ever given a book a 1 star. If I dislike a book that much I probably DNF it before then and I don’t rate DNF’s. I give out mostly 3 and 4 stars and some 2 stars if I didn’t enjoy the book.
      I actually have had a book I considered DNF’ing which ended up being a 5 star rating. The start was just very slow, but it got really good after that. In most cases though I agree that a book has to catch your attention early on if possible.
      And I agree you can’t compare some books, even if I give two books the same rating it can be for different reasons. And even in each rating there’s still a lot of fluctuation of how good a book is.

    • I also have gotten better at DNF’ing books,but even if I enjoy a book I know when to stop. I enjoy my work and I need my sleep too much to read deep into the night too often.

      I do give out 5 stars directly after I finished the book, but they seem rare lately. I don’t do half ratings, but I can imagine it would be handy sometimes when a book isn’t quite a 5 star, but very good.
      Lola recently posted…Review: Saven Denial by Siobhan DavisMy Profile

  10. I rarely(if ever) give 1 or 2 stars. 3 only sometimes. 4 and 5 are my favorites, however-to get a 5, I have to love the book and since I love reading, and read so much, it’s hard for me not to reward a book that highly entertained me. If all the elements I need-great characters, great world building, great story etc are there-then I reward that. One blog I review for doesn’t rate with stars anymore and one does and uses half stars as well.I really like 4.5 as a rating to use.And actually 3.5 is one I use a lot as well. Funny how we all have our own ways of rating. Great topic!
    Lorna recently posted…Fresh Meat: May 22 to 28 — 18 Speculative Fiction ReleasesMy Profile

    • I don’t give out 1 stars, but I do give out a 2 star now and then. The 3 and 4 stars are quite frequent, but the 5 stars are pretty rare. I have considered doing half stars, but as I only use whole stars for so long now it would feel weird to change. I can imagine the 3.5 and 4.5 would be a rating I would use regularly as well if I did. And indeed we all have our own ways of rating, which is why it’s so difficult to know what a certain rating means sometimes as for everyone it has a different meaning.

  11. I’m crazy stingy with my 5 star reviews. I think last year I had one? Maybe 2. So far this year only two out of 70ish books. They’ve really got to stun me stupid. lol Either absolutely wrecking me and leaving me in tears or something unique that just completely captivated me or went above and beyond the typical oh that’s so fun to whoa! Or if I’m tweet-stalking the author by the end of the book. That kind of thing. lol
    anna (herding cats & burning soup) recently posted…3.5 stars–Too Hot to Handle (Romancing the Clarksons #1) by Tessa BaileyMy Profile

    • Yes same here, a 5 star has to really impress me. Usually it’s more of a feeling than exact science when I give a book a 5 star rating, it just feels like a 5 star book or it doesn’t. It seems I have gotten even more picky with them this year.

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